Taxonomic treats

Ever since I heard of the fungal species Neosartorya fischeri I wanted to work with it. Not because it’s especially weird, or relevant but because I love the idea of a fungus that is the new elegance of Dr fischer!
Only now I discover that it’s actually just an Aspergillus in its telemorphic sexual state. For a fungus that doesn’t mean it’s feeling frisky, it means that in this state, it is making sexual spores. When it’s reproducing asexually it’s called Aspergillus fischerianus. Aspergillus comes from the name of a holy water sprinkling device, but I wonder where the -anus came from!!! I know the aspergillus anamorph has been called invalid before but there’s no need to call it Dr fischeri’s holy-water spinkling bum, surely! Taxonomists have quite the sense of humour it would seem.

OK I take it back, Now I know what the aspergillus name means I want to work with it EVEN more.

The morphing face of perception

As I have described before, I find my own visage reminiscent of something squiddish. Or at least I did. Some peculiar change has taken place recently in the face that lives in the ocean at the bottom of the mirror that cannot entirely be explained by my all too tardy discovery of eyebrow pencils. No, there is something inexplicably different and almost, human about the overall mask. It’s uncannily like I am simply Homo sapiens like you and not a demon-spawed sea-creature abomination. Could it be that I’ve transformed through some cephalopodic adolescence into my mature form? A flood of aquatic hormones that has flushed out the adolescent obsession with facial paranoia? A transition where dysmorphia is displaced by clarity.

It’s funny how a slight change in perspective can alter perception so vastly. The monster under the bed retreats into its former scarf and slippers form with the flick of a switch but I’m left wondering which switch got flicked this time, and how do I keep the light on?

“I think I should be

a little more confident,

in my self,

in my skin” ~Daughter, Home

A rare transferace of joy via these peculiar tentacles

Some rare events have occured in the last couple of days, during which, I have been reminded how incredibly magnificent and affecting Homo sapiens can be.

I’ve had some lovely and silly, breif chats in real life and virtually, and said a sad farewell to a very talented and all-round  delightful student. I didn’t even get awkward about the goodbye hug. Imagine that!

I’ve been listening to the British band Daughter and finding their music increasingly intoxicating. Imagine my delight when I discovered they will play a gig in my city in the new year. Yay!

Anyway, I received a package this morning in the post:


Not sure if you can read that but the two handwritten notes say “ONLY GOOD VIBES X” and “ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE XXX” plus a big yellow thing with a giant smile on, all bundled up in forest green crepe paper and ribbons. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that this might be a mental salvation survival package sent by my mother, but it was actually something I ordered for myself. So cute was the encasement that I almost forgot to take out the items inside; a pair of handmade black tentacle earrings. The adorability of said earrings is immense but the sense of joy I felt was more from the effort that the artist had gone to for someone they had never met. I think I have smiled my way pretty much through an entire day, wearing clay octopus arms in my ear holes, pretending that I’m secretly part cephalopod, and generally thinking that maybe I’m not a total cretin after all for living my ever hopeful existence.

I spent a lot of time working on my latest scientific masterpiece, and I have to say that I’m pretty pleased with the way it is shaping up. My writing and ability to structure, it would seem, have matured into a form much more readily digested and assimilated (we shall see if the boss lady agrees).

We tried in earnest to acquire some jack-o-lanterns for tonight (at my insistence because a Halloween uncelebrated is a grumpfest waiting to happen) but I felt satisfied with the darling honey bear and yellow acorn squashes that a local farm shop had to offer. I presently diemboweled them and performed the necessary crude open surgery.




Shame about the raggedy carving but it’s good enough for me. Sometimes having emotions is a great thing :).

“You could still be,
what you want to,
What you said you were,
when I met you”~Daughter, medicine

Grace and the barely concealed teeth of stasis


Visits home to Mum’s house always feel a bit strange. Especially these days with Gran gone and two houses in disarray and the dog flitting between affection and savagery. No, this is certainly no place for the feeble or unrelated right now.

It’s alright for me as I listen to the national in my backwards facing train seat, watching the drizzly fenland shrink into nothing in the distance but someone had to stay here and live inside the cocoons of weirdness that have been spun here. I’m sad to leave but I’m glad to be able to breath again.

Two dilapidated museums, strung with bells and wind-chimes, crosses and constant reminders of what came before. Dust making unfounded claims on the remnants of another life, unperturbed by months of indecision and tentative rearrangements.

There is a kind of organic density in the darkness here that lighbulbs simply cannot penetrate. Leaving space in the shadows for doubts to multiply and lending every motion to slurring like amateur stopped-motion.

The radio shouts out emphatically about the grace of god like this god could fix things, or make it OK that people suffer so. All I can see is a surface of bright shiny foil covering whatever is really underneath, and can you please tell me why must they keep on focusing on the polishing the shine and not nourishing the foundations of the tangible. I don’t somehow think that jesus is coming to save her from this mess but maybe having something paper-thin and shiny feels like the armour that she needs to wear.

It seems unfair to be leaving, to leave someone behind in this treacle that they have thickened even by themselves – to just walk away from a household in such need of care and hope and vitality.

I’ll be back soon, and I’m bringing my armour to help slay these tenuous webs of guilt and uncertainty. No-one should have to breathe such toxins in every day.

I’m under the gun again,
I know I was a 45 percenter then”

~the national, I need my girl

In which I carefully packed my anxiety in my luggage and took it for a trip over the ocean.

2015-06-26 16.41.13It feels good to have time and head space to kick back and write some non-scientific words. It’s been pretty non-stop since I left England and it is, in a way, nice to be home. I’ll try to actually edit this post before I publish because there is an astounding probability of utterly contemptible drivel.


A few days before we flew my boss came out with a comment over coffee that I was CRAP! and it was my fault that a project wasn’t working (in response to a shameless attempting at fishing for compliments)- apparently I have been deemed tough and resilient enough not to take this to heart as it was meant to be sarcasm, and it mostly washed off my back, and Iw as going to write a blog post about how this meant she fully accepted me and it was a good thing etc,  but there is a lingering fear that maybe I AM crap? (though i’m reasonably sure I’m not). What I have learned this week is that Principal Investigators aught to come with a warning captions like “has a potty mouth” “is likely to be tactile” or “is never wrong” and my boss would have “does not give gratuitous praise”.

Before we even got on the plane, my boss had told me that I wasn’t pretty or leggy enough.

I may, or may not have presented this information out of context.

OK the context was that my male colleague’s girlfriend got £50 tips when serving in a bar and I never did….and admittedly his girlfriend is incredibly pretty and bubbly and all-round adorable, so I can’t say I’m surprised she got such tips, but I don’t really need people spelling out to me whats wrong with me :(. In fact, those words have kind of haunted me all week, to the point that when he and my boss were discussing how attractive another (very hot) female delegate was, I felt really quite ugly and frumpy, when I usually wouldn’t indulge in comparing myself.

Bearing this in mind, my colleagues were, blessed with the dubious opportunity to see me in some very short shorts (sorry guys, it (not I) was hot!). You, however, will not have to see that because there were no photos – Ha!

The conference

The social situation was already scary, plus dragging around these self-doubts and lack of confidence Mr anxiety thought he’d like to pop up his ugly head for an impressive metamorphosis into a sweaty, bug-eyed, palpitationous blob on the floor. As I have described before I am a very nervous speaker, and conversing with  unknown people is terrifying, especially when they are super smart and esteemed scientists – but talking to them is necessary part of the conference process. Sitting down with some unknowns for breakfast, lunch and dinners was actually kind of fun and I tried my damnedest to get out some words and introductions (though mostly in the other order). Presenting data to people who looked at my poster incurred some sweatiness and shaking to the extent that it was embarrassing! I figured if I had a drink it would be easier, so I paid up my dollars for a week’s worth of booze for the post-lecture socializing (fully expecting to have at least one beer a night). What actually happened was tragic stress headaches for two days (so no booze) followed by getting a cider, sipping down to about a quarter of the bottle then getting dizzy and stuffy and taking myself to bed where I felt wheezy, and took my inhaler.

If you’ve ever taken salbutamol or ventalin you will know that it can make you a bit shaky – and what you will also know is that you are supposed to shake it before you use it. Apparently if you don’t shake it the dose is HIGHER than it should be, sooooo, I took waaay more than I needed by accident, which gave me palpitations and triggered a panic attack (yay me!), but as I’d had alcohol I couldn’t take valium so I had to just lie there at midnight freaking out for a couple of hours, and then had to get up 4 hours later for breakie! Brill! it was around about now that I found out I had to present my work in a 5 min talk in front of everyone in the lecture theatre and that borderline level of tolerable anxiety sky-rocketed and I had to admit defeat and take valium rather than alcohol in order to keep my body from imploding or the inevitable degeneration into a twitching, gibber-jabbering pool of sweat. sooo, $40 for a quarter of a cider was a bit steep and I totally pissed at myself for not being able to relax and just enjoy myself but I just couldn’t :(. I wanted to be able to just walk up to people and start chatting but I was crippled with the fear that I’d look stupid or that I didn’t know what to say to them.

Needless to say, my talk was OK – not award-winning but perfectly adequate and I was satisfied with it.

The rest of the conference passed with no dramas, and I went horse riding with the boss lady (though they call it horseback riding -is another part of the horse that you can ride on that I don’t know about?) weird. The flight back was ok but I really could have done with those 5 hours of sleep that we all missed out on thanks to time zones. grrrr.

One thing that really struck me, was how considerate and nice everyone was. In particular my colleagues that I was travelling with were very tolerant of me (I know I’m a nightmare to travel with) and yet they checked I was ok – they took into account my food requirements, and y’know, little things, like giving me a hand when I was struggling with something, and reminding me that I was going to be ok when I got stressed, and generally treating me like I was worth being nice to. That male colleague with the cute girlfriend was really great the whole trip and I only wish there was a way to tell him how much I appreciated how nice he was being, it was like travelling with my brother or something – but I think he’s just like that with everyone – This guy and his girlfriend invited me over to their place for my birthday one year because I wasn’t doing anything to celebrate – that’s the sort of people they are and I can only hope that some of that kindness has rubbed off on me. Clearly I can’t SAY that to him, it would sound really weird – like, hey thanks for not acting like a total dick the whole time…geees, I’d be pretty offended if someone inferred that to me! I just wish I wasn’t so damned inhibited, its terrible, I feel so BORING because I’m just so afraid of anything that might be fun, not to mention how selfish I can be…eugh! I was offered the opportunity to stay in boston for an extra night at the airline’s cost and would get a free return trip to the location of my choice and I turned it down just because I was freaking out. I want to be the person who CAN do those things, who CAN take opportunities without just losing their shit. How do I do that?

The fallout

When I got home, I’d been up at 6AM, spent the day in Boston (YAY aquarium time take 2), flew at 11pm, dozed a little, arrived in London 5 hours later at 9AM, taken the tube and train and then hoped I could be a lift home but no, SO couldn’t get me so I had to queue for ages for a taxi. By the time I actually got home I was exhausted – genuinely pooped. I dragged my luggage up to the flat and SO was there watching TV. At this point I was jet-lagged and sleep deprived so all I wanted to do was take a quick shower then sleep until my brain caught up. I had a conversation like this:

“Hello, how are you”

“fine, what’s the matter?”

“I’m tired”

…gets a drink of water…

“what’s the matter?”

“I’m fucking tired”


“What;s the matter?”

“You keeping on asking me what the matter is!”

..pulls annoyed face…

“whats the matter?”

“FFS I’m fucking tired and Jet-lagged for fucks sake I’ve been awake since 6AM yesterday what the fuck else do you think the matter is? other than you keeping of fucking well asking me what the fucking problem is!!??

I was, at this point offered the generous opportunity to exit my own property if I was going to be moody because SO didn’t want to deal with it.

I won’t continue and tell you exactly how unpleasant this homecoming was but I was expected to change the bedclothes as soon as I got home and there are still dishes from yesterday that I am going to have to wash. Needless to say I am now really quite depressed about certain things. You know how you rose-tint things when you aren’t close to them? Yeah, that happened.  It kind of hurt when I was dragged to the supermarket so that SO could get something, he got mega moody and so I carried the shopping (despite holding up a long skirt so it didn’t get wet) and he didn’t even open the car boot for me. It’s almost enough to make me want to make his jetlag 10 times worse if he ever has to go to the states without me. Almost, but I won’t let him turn me into that person.

all in all, an educational trip in the scientific, social and psychological fields.

Oh and I was in Boston when we heard about the gay marriage legalization in the states (woohoo), and I proceeded to have a dream about a (already married) female friend proposing to me! Hahaha!

“I know you know my head’s not in this now
“sneaker pimps, destroying angel

Another round with health anxiety


I wonder if I’m addicted to….antihistamines? I’m going to tell myself that actually I need them because of all the pollen and dust and spores around here and that I have no problem at all, I mean, it’s not like I only sleep like a rock after taking an antihistamine or anything…or that the humble ceririzine functions as a cure for most hypochondria…
Speaking of which, I haven’t decided with any conviction, that I am dying of something for some time. With the dubious exception of the high blood pressure that I made my Dr check (100/60) huh?! While I should have been asking her about continual use of antihistamines and how soon after diazepam you can have a beer. She said eat more salt. Can you imagine being told to eat MORE salt by your Dr? Well I don’t need to be told twice 🙂 and so begins the era of much marmite and cheese.
As the time of travel draws near I expect the usual symptoms to manifest, but I won’t let it all get to me unless it can’t be fixed with the foolproof combo of antihistamine, diazepam, Paracetamol and gaviscon. I think I might be singlehandedly supporting the production of gaviscon these days, and all so that I can drink coffee and alcohol. Is it worth it? What do you think?
Speaking of alcohol, I have had some weird experiences with it over the last couple of years, to the point that I’ve almost stopped drinking. You might think this is a good thing, but the reason wasn’t because I didn’t feel like it, but because I developed a (perfectly rational) fear that I’d get crippling stomach cramps, bad headaches and get dizzy to the point of fainting. So every time I had a sip of cider, I freaked, felt dizzy and got more scared. I’ve got tablets for my delicate tummy (though I’d NEVER drink with full-on gastritis) paracetamol for the next day and now I know my BP is low, presumably that’s why I get dizzy, so I just need to eat something salty, dance around (this might raise a few scholarly eyebrows) and drink plenty of water and I’ll be fine 🙂 I can’t freak out because there’s no diazepam until the next day. I’ll be landed on a beach of my own creation, but hopefully someone will join me and talk utter nonsense with me until the (hopefully hidden) anxiety or anticipation thereof subsides.

I think my Hypochondria has got a lot better since I started to accept that one day I’m going to die, and there is nothing I can do about it. I’ll be pissed if I die before I get to present my conference poster (its getting really pretty now) but if that’s my fate then I can’t really argue. I’m not worried about flying, I’m only worried about the other passengers infecting me with unpleasant and unwelcome agents. I guess I’d better refrain from catching people’s coughs, sniffing people’s hair and licking the seatbelts then, huh? What other in-flight entertainment IS there?
Antiviral hand foam at the ready!!

So I let Crazy
take a spin
Then I let Crazy
settle in
Kicked off my shoes
Shut reason out”~tori amos, crazy

It’s funny, the things that you find in the rain (or, yknow’, loft)

It really is amazing what people will throw in their lofts and sheds. Especially as they forget what’s in there and inconveniently expire, leaving the descendants to sort through it all. At this juncture, I am one of the aforementioned descendants. image

We found all sorts of antique stuff just set aside! like the picture above of some stencilling paint and brushes in red, white and blue, that must have been used to paint a union jack or something, maybe for VE day. We find ourselves sifting through what look like dreadfully ugly chinaware that actually might be worth auctioning and very pretty little things that are worthless. Worth is a funny thing isn’t it. These things all meant something to my late Grandmother but I have no connection to them – many I haven’t even seen before, but this is no time for sentimentality – Those cute biscuit tins
imageand those that are filled with buttons that have long since lost their garments but no-one ca bear to throw them away. We found bags of fabric just waiting to be made into curtains or dresses or something else, but they were just wrapped up safely next to an old “His Master’s Voice” radio and a load of french liguaphone record sets.

(did you know that HMV stands for his master’s voice? I didn’t!) I found that my Grandfather was accepted into Cambridge University but the scholarship was not full and his parents could not afford to send him. I’m so glad that now I’ve made it there myself -I didn’t know him well but I’m sure he’d be proud,

Among the piles of dresses and fur coats we found two horseshoes, some antique sheep clippers, and boxes and boxes of lovely old books that were dusty and delicate.

I won’t say that the experience of lugging all that stuff around and sorting through was fun, but I will say that it was insightful and surprising at times.

It makes me wonder what someone else would make of the stuff I have stuffed under by bed!

Show me the ways to button up buttons
That have forgotten they’re buttons
Well we can’t have that forgetting that”~tori amos, yes, anastasia